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Associated Press

Hey, remember me?

Hello ... hello ... hey, anybody in here?

Boy, this place is a mess. Beer cans in the shrubbery. A lampshade wearing my Pirates cap. A-Rod, Ryan Braun and a bunch of yet-to-be-named baseball dudes passed out on my front lawn. I hear the MLBPA finally got fed up with their hijinks and locked them out of the house.

Sooo ... I'm back, after two restful weeks away from, well, pretty much everything. And I have a few thoughts, as I clean up after what must have been an epic Blobophile blowout:

* Regarding A-Rod, Braun and the rest of the As-Yet-Unnameds about to be outed as compulsive juiceheads by the Biogenesis probe ... the worm has apparently finally turned in Major League Baseball's ongoing war on PEDs.

When the players' association says it will no longer protect PED users, that's a major sea change. More to the point, it's the only sort of change that really ever achieves results -- i.e., change from within. Baseball was never going to turn the corner on this issue until the players who don't use PEDs got fed up enough to throw an anchor instead of a life preserver to the players who use.

Apparently, they've finally realized that turning their backs on the juiceheads wasn't selling them out. It's making sure the juiceheads stop selling them out.

And hooray for that.

* And in today's episode of Coaches Gone Wild ... this, about one of the longtime kingpins of women's hoops in the Summit League. If even half of this is true (and it's hard to believe it's not, given the number of players who weighed in both on the record and otherwise), the mystery is solved as to why Oakland abruptly showed Beckie Francis the door. Woman's got some serious issues, apparently.

* A tip of the visor to Phil Mickelson, who gave us a Sunday round for the ages in the British Open at Muirfield. It's always rewarding to see a genuinely decent guy win one for the genuinely decent guys in the world.

And, speaking of the flip side of genuinely decent guys, there was the requisite Sunday flameout from that other guy, Tiger Something. Always comforting to see an essential truism borne out -- i.e., you can always count on Tiger Something to take the gas on Sunday in a major unless he's leading going in.

* Today's Totally Irrelevant Sports Tidbit: Chris Froome won the 100th Tour de Syringe, er, Tour de France. A public service by the Blob for the one guy in the room who still cares.

* Shhh. Listen. You can almost hear the NCAA beginning to creak in the wind, can't you?

Such a ponderous edifice of moral incoherence and outright hypocrisy was bound to begin tottering under the weight of its own contradictions, and, friends and neighbors, it's a-happenin'. The Ed O'Bannon class action suit has now been joined by current as well as former players who want their piece of the pie the NCAA's members have said they were hogging for the welfare of the student-athletes, and not even the NCAA quitting the video game biz is going to save it now.

The naked truth of it is, using thinly-veiled facsimiles of its players' images without their consent and without giving them a cut of the profits those images generate is straight-up exploitation, and goes against every free-market principle this nation claims is its bedrock faith. And the more the NCAA tries to deny it the more twisted and divorced from reality its arguments become.

Throw out your lawyers and come out with your hands up, gentlemen and ladies. You're surrounded, and the (shell) game is up.

* And, last ... the clock is ticking on my Pittsburgh Pirates annual post-All-Star Game unraveling. Record so far in the second half: 1-2. Last 10 games: 4-6.

To be continued.

Ben Smith's blog.